Taylor Mali’s mastery with words inspired many to go into the teaching profession. Now, for the first time in the state the former teacher and well-known poet will bring his message to Black Hills State University. Mali will speak Tuesday, Oct. 16 at 7 p.m. in the Meier Recital Hall as part of the Madeline A. Young Distinguished Speaker Series.

BHSU photography professor Steve Babbitt suggested bringing in Mali for the series. “I knew that South Dakota was the one state he had never performed in,” said Babbitt, who also serves on the committee for the speaker series. He was first introduced to Mali by a friend’s daughter who is a teacher. Babbit said that with BHSU’s legacy of preparing exceptional teacher she thought it was a perfect fit to bring the poet to campus.

Mali, a former middle school teacher, is a vocal advocate of educators and the nobility of teacher. He has traveled throughout the world to perform and lecture for teachers. He recently completed a 12-year project which helped create 1,000 new teachers through “poetry, persuasion, and perseverance.” Mali also recently published a book of essays, “What Teachers Make: In Praise of the Greatest Job in the World” which chronicles his life from teacher to advocate. The book came about after an unfortunate encounter Mali had with a lawyer at a dinner party. The lawyer insulted the teaching profession suggesting that people who become teachers don’t have the intellect to do so. Mali responded by writing a passionate response, “What Teachers Make,” which has been seen and forwarded millions of times on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. 

“In today’s day and age, teachers seldom get the recognition and credit for what they do for society, someone like Taylor Mali strives to change that,” Babbitt said. “I find his poetry both insightful and very entertaining.”

Mali was born in New York City in 1965. He learned at an early age that words have power. In graduate school, he became interested in and eventually president of Poetry Slam, Inc., the non-profit organization that oversees all poetry slams in North America. Mali also spent nine years teaching a variety of subjects including English, history, math, and S.A.T. test preparation. At the end of those nine years, he decided to follow his passion and pursue teaching and poetry on a global scale.

The event is sponsored by the Madeline A. Young Distinguished Speaker Series.The series was established in 1986 by a gift endowment from Madeline Young, a1924 alumna. Young expressed her desire to host controversial, stimulating, and enlivening speakers at BHSU. It was initiated at the University in 1987 with an address by former United Nations Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick. Other Madeline Young Speakers have included: Terry Waite, former hostage, hostage negotiator and envoy for England’s Archbishop of Canterbury; Felix Justice and Danny Glover, actors; Sam Donaldson, television broadcaster; Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize winner; and Lech Walesa, former Polish president.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information contact Steve Meeker, vice president for University Advancement, at 605-642-6385 or Steve.Meeker@BHSU.edu.